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HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSOURI,
St. Louis, Mo.,
July 1, 1867.



COLONEL: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of the report. of Gen. N. B. Buford, special commissioner of Indian affairs, dated Washington D.C., June 6, 1867, addressed to the Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War, and by him and General Grant referred to me for remarks

There has been so much controversy concerning the matters embraced in this report that I deem it necessary to make my remarks fuller than would be called for merely in reply to the points made by General Buford, so as to present the whole question of Indian affairs on the plains as it now appears to my mind from facts that have fallen under my own observation, and the knowledge of which is derived from reliable sources.

Ever since the acquisition from Mexico of California and New Mexico our people have travelled across the plains, and since that time, rightly or wrongfully, settlements of national importance have grown up both along the Pacific coast and along the Rocky mountains, for which the Congress of the United States has provided State and territorial governments; have surveyed public lands, and provided for stage, telegraph, and railroad lines, with either a direct or implied promise of protection.

The whole of this region, embracing more than half our national limits, has been and still is occupied by the aboriginal Indians, whose right, in some manner or shape, has also been recognized, and treaties made, for which, I believe we are solemnly bound, but what those treaties promise or the reasons that influenced the treaty making power, is not for me to say. Their binding force has never been questioned by me, or by any officer or soldier subject to my command.

Nevertheless and notwithstanding those treaties, constant and unceasing conflicts have existed and continue to exist between the Indians and our people on the frontier and in the distant settlements; and more especially have Indian attacks been made on the parties travelling, or engaged in staging, or in building the two Pacific railroads. All these people appeal to the military for help and protection, while our hands are tied in a measure by our inability to reach the real cause of these conflicts, and by being forced to confine our efforts to meet the scattered and endless attacks and collisions of the two hostile races.

General Buford is right in denouncing the too common habit of originating and giving too wide circulation to false and exaggerated reports, such as the Fort Buford and steamer Miner massacres, and in attributing much of the cause of the clamor this spring to the changes made necessary along the Platte by the progress of the Pacific railroad, and consequent necessary abandonment of former stage stations and ranches.

The order for opening the new or Bozeman's route to Montana was first made by Major General John Pope, when commanding the department of Missouri, and I was never informed that it conflicted with any treaty with the Sioux or that the treaty had been wrongfully exacted from self-created chiefs of that nation by the commissioners duly appointed. The road was called for by the growing settlements in Montana, it being several hundred miles shorter than the old road round by Salt Lake, or by Fort Hall, and the establishment of the new posts (Fort Reno, Philip Kearney, and C. F. Smith) was but the prolongation of a line long since established from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Laramie, and would anyhow have been necessary sooner or later. To abandon this road now, under pressure, would invite the whole Sioux nation down to the main Platte road, and would, in my judgment, increase our troubles.

The destruction of Colonel Fetterman's party, that sallied from Fort Philip Kearney in December last; was surely one result of the occupation of that road, as stated by the commissioner; but instead of talking with the Indians who did the deed, I would have preferred to have followed the savages to their own country, and to have avenged the massacre in such a way that it would not have invited a repetition; but Congress, in its wisdom, with a full knowledge of all the facts, and all its connecting circumstances, has preferred to send but civil peace commissioners to confer with the perpetrators, and during such conference the military would not have been justified in adopting extreme measure. All that we have done or could do was to strengthen that line so as to form a base from which, in due season, we may avenge the death of Colonel Fetterman and his command when it becomes necessary; but the Sioux have not confined their efforts to resist the opening of that single road. They have carried war down several hundreds of miles south, and have killed our people, and stolen our horses at Brady's Island, at Ash Hollow, on Lodge Pole, and even to the south of the South Platte. Some of these same Sioux are at this moment at open war, in combination with Cheyennes and Kiowas, as low down as the Smoky Hill, where I believe they never before claimed a right to go. It is barely possible that the main Sioux nation now desires peace, but the acts of the warriors do not look like it, and we, the military and the people, generally are compelled to take all the precaution necessary to a state of actual war, all the way, from the North Platte to Utah and Montana, as well as on the Smoky Hill and New Mexico roads. But, to show the honorable Secretary of War that we, the military, are not deposed to precipitate matters, or to usurp any of the rights and privileges of the officers of the Indian bureau, I refer to my circular of instructions herewith, requiring all officers acting under me to respect all treaties and the rights of the civil agents intrusted [sic] with their execution except when their hostility is undoubted.

The Commissioner General Buford also traces the cause of the outbreak this spring to Major General Hancock's expedition to Fort Lamed, and to his burning the Indian camp on Pawnee Fork in April last. In this I am sure he is in error, for long before General Hancock had started, we had unmistakable signs of trouble and positive threats of warriors well known to us, that as soon as the grass grew, there would be a combined attack on all our roads by the Sioux of the north and the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and Kiowas of the south. That such a combination was designed and partially concluded, is to me now demonstrated, and even at the time was clear to General Hancock. He was on the spot and was better qualified to judge than others at a distance, who formed their opinions on Indian testimony alone. General Hancock has made to me a full and satisfactory report, which is now at your headquarters, and I believe his movements so early in the spring prevented a combination that might otherwise have been vastly more destructive than it has been. To talk of those people desiring to live at peace with us, is to all men on the plains absurd; we have not pushed our possessions this year at all, and have invaded no new Indian lands or hunting grounds, and yet they took the initiative, and Indian hostilities have prevailed from Minnesota to Texas. The cause of this coincidence lies far deeper than I fear General Buford has looked. The "report on the condition of the Indian tribes," 1867, by a special committee appointed under joint resolution of March 3, 1867, now before me, in my judgment far better sets forth the causes that have resulted in these troubles, and gives us a foundation of testimony on which we should build. I venture, to express a hope that the Congress of the United States will again open this question and make some approximate solution of it, so that in time we may accomplish a definite result. So long as the two distinct races of people, with such diverse interests as subsist between the roving Indians of the plains and our own white settlers, remain together, so long will actual war exist, and if there be an earnest desire on the part of the law-making power of the government to save the weaker party from absolute annihilation, some provision must be made for separating these conflicting races. As long as Indians are allowed to hunt up to our very roads, there will be constant conflict and consequent murders. The territory indicated by General Buford, between the Platte and Smoky Hill, with the longitudes of Plum creek and Pole creek, seems to have been chosen for the very purpose of continuing strife with the so-called friendly Sioux and Cheyennes.

If the Interior Department determine to locate these people in that place, I assert that I have not troops enough to prevent these constant outbreaks. The country to which these Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, Camanches [sic], and Navajos ought to be conducted and restricted, is the "Indian country" west of Arkansas; and if some form of government could be given them, with a pledge to keep out all railroads and all white settlers, there would be some hope that the tribes might survive some years, and assimilate with the Cherokees and Creeks. In like manner, if the Sioux can be prevailed on to keep north of Nebraska, west of the Missouri river, and east of say the parallel of the mouth of the Yellowstone, (Muscle Shell is too far to the west,) they would have a range as large as they ought to want, until necessity would force them to live on and cultivate the little strips of land that are fit for corn, along the banks of the Missouri river.

If some general plan of this sort can be agreed upon, and be made clear and specific by law, and not by the mere vague consent of the Indians, we can co-operate cheerfully with the efforts of whatever agents the general government may intrust [sic] with the execution of the plan; and, so far as I am personally and officially, concerned, I wish to be understood as not wanting to have anything to do with Indian agencies, Indian trading, or making Indian treaties. It is an influence that might become as corrupting and mischievous to the military as it is generally believed to have been to the civil agents of government; only I would like to have some power to prevent the Indians with whom we are now at war or certain to become so, from being supplied (as was done last fall) with the very arms and munitions with which they have fought us. I would also like to have some check against making gratuitous presents to hostile Indians the same as to the friendly.

These roving tribes have no real chiefs, but they are a pure democracy; each man does as he pleases regardless of his so-called chief, and at this very moment, what we term their war parties are made up of every tribe, Sioux, Cheyennes, Camanchcs [sic], and Kiowas, all fighting together in large or small bands. Their families are kept far away with the old and friendly chiefs who disclaim the war with all its attendant consequences, but stand ready to celebrate the dance over the scalps brought in by their more valorous and venturesome young braves, and ready to enjoy their share of the stolen horses, mules, and plunder. To deal therefore with these professedly friendly chiefs is but a mockery. The time is now opportune for declaring all treaties abrogated by reason of their hostile acts, and to prescribe by law terms binding on all alike, but just, liberal, and fair in their character, and then we, the military, will know exactly what to do and what to enforce. As the case now stands we are put to fearful expenses in maintaining troops and posts where the Indians are professedly peaceful, but who may at any moment break out in open war. Far better would it be at once to assume the fact that all Indians, not on fixed reservation, are at war, and when it is ended we can keep our troops in cheaper and more available localities, and soon save the costs of the war. Congress alone can do this, and it is a grievous wrong to force our soldiers into the unnatural attitude in which they now stand, when the people of the frontier universally declare the Indians to be at war, and the Indian commissioners and agents pronounce them at peace, leaving us in the gap to be abused by both parties.

The Secretary of War knows already what efforts have been made in Montana to involve us in war there; also how clamorous have been the civil authorities of Colorado to the same end, and lastly Kansas. Were I or the department commanders to send guards to every point where they are clamored for, we would need alone on the plains a hundred thousand men, mostly of cavalry. Each spot of every road, and each little settlement along our five thousand miles of frontier, wants its regiment of cavalry or infantry, to protect it against the combined power of all the Indians, because of the bare possibility of their being attacked by the combined force of all these Indians. This war-making, I know, is an expensive matter, and it does not rest with me. I will not assume it by calling into service an unlimited number of volunteers, and compromising those who in their ignorance would respond, and learn too late that Congress alone can pay the bill. I do, however, urgently beg that some disposition be made of these questions by the rightful party, the Congress of the United States, that all parties interested may know where they are to look for safety. Until this is done, I must continue, as heretofore, to use the regular troops provided-by law, and only to call for volunteer help when, in the language of General Grant, "it becomes necessary for the preservation of existing settlements and lines of travel."

I enclose herewith copies of despatches [sic] taken from a great mass on hand, many of which you have already seen, but which I think, taken in connection, will show whether the Indian troubles of this spring are caused by recent acts on our part, or have arisen from the inherent causes so fully and clearly set forth and described in the " Report of the Indian Committee " herein before quoted, to which I beg to refer as containing a column of testimony dating long before a Pacific railroad was projected or General Hancock's expedition was dreamed of.

I also return herewith the report of General Buford, special commissioner, as it is an original paper for file in the War Department.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN
Lieutenant General United States Army.


Colonel GEORGE K. LEET,
Assistant Adjutant General.
Headquarters Army of United States, Washington, D. C.